Blast convict wants to sell kidney to fund his defence

Hanif Sayeed has been sentenced to death for his role in the 2003 Gateway of India blast

Haneef Sayyed, who, along with wife Fahmida, has been sentenced to death for their role in the 2003 Gateway of India blast, wants to sell off his kidney to raise money for legal defence, his lawyer said.

“He wrote to me last week saying that he wants to auction one of his kidneys to pay the lawyers,” advocate Sushant Kunjuraman told PTI on Thursday.

“I am going to file a petition in the High Court, seeking direction to the government that Sayyed be allowed to sell his kidney,” Mr. Kunjuraman said.

Sayyed was a taxi driver by profession before his arrest. Sayyed, his wife, and one Arshad Ansari were convicted by the court last year for carrying out twin blasts — at Gateway and Zaveri Bazaar — which killed 54 people.

Their appeals are pending before the High Court.

“Since he is in jail, if he wants to sell his kidney, government’s permission is required,” Mr. Kunjuraman said.

Under the Indian law, no human organ can be removed from a living donor unless it is intended for a close relative. Organ transplants require the consent of government-appointed committees, and no organ can be sold.

ISI pressurising Indian terror suspects to launch attacks

Indian terror suspects who are enjoying the patronage of Pakistan’s ISI are being pressurised to launch terror attacks in the country.

Official sources said many terrorists who have been given protection for quite a number of years have been asked to prove their worth or face consequences.

This was revealed during investigations into the alleged plans of Sikh militant group Babbar Khalsa International men to plant a bomb in the national capital and Himachal Pradesh.

Sources said the men were being provided directions by Pakistan-based Wadhwa Singh and Parminder Singh, who figure in dossier of wanted terrorists passed to Pakistan recently.

“The men have been provided cover for so long. There are no free lunches in the world. They have to show their worth to enjoy the shelter of the ISI,” a source said.

He said attempts are being made by certain men to re-group and launch attacks on country’s stability

Sources said that with Commonwealth Games scheduled later this year, the terror groups being provided all help by ISI are under more pressure to launch attacks but are jittery over busting of various modules by police across the country.

They said the efforts are to launch an attack and try to project the country as unsafe before the Games. They said the strategy would be to launch an attack through various groups based here rather than by those from outside the country.

Incidentally, on Wednesday, hundreds of armed militants including top LeT commander Abdul Wahid Kashmiri and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin had gathered in Kotli town of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) vowing to wage ‘jihad’ against India.

Vanishing island solves India-Bangladesh dispute

KOLKATA — A tiny island at the centre of a territorial dispute between India and Bangladesh has disappeared beneath the waves due to rising sea levels and erosion, scientists say.

The uninhabited outcrop — called New Moore island by India and South Talpatti by Bangladesh — was 3.5 kilometres (about two miles) long and 3.0 kilometres wide before it was swallowed up by the Bay of Bengal.

“There’s no trace of the island anymore. After studying satellite images, I confirmed this from fishermen,” Sugata Hazra, a professor from the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, told reporters.

Hazra said global warming and erosion were responsible for solving a point of contention in the sometimes fractious relations between India and Bangladesh, which both claimed the island.

“Climate change has obliterated the source of dispute,” he said.

Hazra said temperatures in the region had been rising at an annual rate of 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

In 1981, the Indian navy planted its national flag on the island, but no permanent settlement was established.

The island, which is thought to have been created by a cyclone only about 40 years ago, sat in the Sundarbans mangrove delta in the mouth of the Hariabhanga River that divides India and Bangladesh.

At its height, it was never more than two metres (about six feet) above sea level.

Hazra said a larger island, called Lohachara, disappeared in the Bay of Bengal in 1996 after 4,000 inhabitants had fled.

At least five other islands in the region are also threatened, he said.

Bangladesh is one of the countries worst affected by climate change with some scientists predicting 20 million people will be displaced by 2050 because of rising sea levels

No U-turn by U.S. on direct access to Headley: Chidambaram

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has said that there was no confusion over the issue of Indian investigators getting direct access to Pakistani-American LeT operative David Coleman Headley or not.

“No, I don’t think so,” Mr. Chidambaram shot back when asked whether there was a U-turn by the US after its envoy in New Delhi Timothy J Roemer said that “no decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made.”

”…If you reflect more carefully that sentence (of Roemer) no way (it) contradicts what the US Attorney (Eric Holder) has told me,” Mr. Chidambaram, who is here on an official visit, told a TV news channel.

Last night Home Secretary G K Pillai said that India was not taking cognisance of Mr. Roemer’s remarks and would be sending its investigators to the US at the earliest.

“I think we are going ahead and we are not really taking cognisance of the US ambassador’s remarks,” he said.

The 49-year-old Headley had last week pleaded guilty to all the 12 terror charges of conspiracy involving bombing public places in India, murdering and maiming persons and providing material support to foreign terrorist plots and Pakistan-based LeT besides aiding and abetting the murder of six US citizens in the 26/11 attacks that killed 166 people.

Following a telephonic discussion with Holder, Mr. Chidambaram had directed National Intelligence Agency and other agencies concerned in the case to quickly prepare documents necessary to start a judicial proceeding in which Indian authorities could require Headley to answer questions and to testify.

India is likely to send a team of investigators in April to question Headley.

PTI story from Chicago adds

Headley will cooperate: lawyer

David Coleman Headley, who has confessed to plotting Mumbai attacks, will cooperate with Indian authorities as required under the terms of his plea agreement if the US government allows, his lawyer has said.

John Theis said 49-year-old Headley’s terms of the plea agreement on March 18 requires that he allows himself to be interviewed by Indian authorities.

“Headley will cooperate to the extent it is required to by the terms of his plea agreement but as for the specifics. I think really our government and our US attorney’s office have to be the ones to determine the actual form (of access),” he told PTI when asked to comment about US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer’s statement that no decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made.

Headley moved a guilty plea at a US court on March 18 where he confessed to plotting the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

“He is in US custody and so interviewing him does implicate the security issues and things like that,” Theis said.

When asked if Indian investigators, who come to the US, can be assured that they would get access to Headley and be able to put their questions to him, Theis said: “I’m not the one to ask that. You will have to ask our government, our US attorney’s office. They are the ones who are going to determine how this actually happens“.

Meanwhile, an FBI spokesperson told PTI: “If the plea agreement says that Headley has agreed to meet with investigators from India, then that is what he will do. It is a question of when and where. But I’m sure if that is what he agreed to, that is what will happen”.

Pranab sticks to 7.2% growth

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said the government was sticking to an estimated 7.2 percent growth rate for this fiscal (2009-10) and 8.5 percent for 2010-11.

“I have given some indication in the budget speech and the economic survey. So far as this year is concerned, we are sticking to 7.2 percent GDP (Gross Domestic Product)growth and 8.5 percent for 2010-11,” Mukherjee said.

The finance minister was talking to reporters on the margins of a workshop on financial literacy, organised by the Reserve Bank of India and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international body.

Anti-hijacking law gets tougher, death sentence included as punishment

NEW DELHI: The UPA government on Friday made the anti-hijacking law much tougher by including death sentence as a punishment.

The Cabinet was expected to consider the proposal moved by civil aviation ministry to amend Anti-Hijacking Act of 1982 to make it more stringent to deter hijackers from using an aircraft as a missile.

With enhanced terror threats, a group of ministers headed by home minister P Chidambaram had cleared the “tougher” proposals paving the way for civil aviation ministry to move the amendments for Cabinet approval.

The Cabinet’s approval paves the way for amending section 4 of the 1982 Act, which provides for life imprisonment and a fine for hijacking, to include death penalty also.

The government is likely to place the proposed amendments before Parliament in the budget session itself once the House meets again after the recess.

The GoM had also decided to incorporate a new clause to cover the aspect of conspiracy to hijack an aircraft which does not exist in the 1982 Act.

The fresh move to ensure legal sanction to anti-hijacking policy comes almost five year after the Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared it in August, 2005. The policy allows shooting down of a “hostile plane if there is conclusive evidence that it is likely to be used as a missile to blow up strategic establishments”.

The policy recognises that hijacked aircraft can be transformed into a “hostile” entity. It also prescribes surrounding of hijacked planes by fighter aircrafts in Indian airspace.

The law will authorise Indian Air Force to take quick steps for scrambling fighters to guard and guide hijacked aircraft and force land it in an Indian airport.

To avoid Kandahar-like situations, the policy also provides that no negotiations whatsoever would be held with hijackers. The policy talks about immobilisation of an aircraft and not allowing it to take off if the hijacking takes place on Indian soil, besides scrambling of IAF fighters if the hijacked plane remains in Indian airspace.


‘Foreign governments can quiz Headley on U.S. soil’

With the U.S. government’s assurance that he will not be extradited to India or Pakistan, LeT operative David Coleman Headley has agreed to be “available” to foreign governments, such as India, who may “interview” him only on US soil.

Under the plea agreement that Headley, a Pakistani-origin American citizen, has entered into with the prosecutors for pleading guilty to 12 counts of terror charges, he cannot be extradited to India, Pakistan or Denmark if he pleads guilty or is convicted of the offences in the superseding indictment.

“Headley has agreed to not only continue his cooperation with the government, which he has been doing since October, but also to make himself available for interviews by other governments in this country. As part of his agreement, he has agreed to allow himself to be interviewed by foreign governments in this country,” Headley’s attorney John Theis told reporters after the hearing.

When asked, if this means that Indian investigators could come to US and talk to Headley, even about the Mumbai attacks, Mr. Theis said “Yes. If he refuses to talk to foreign governments here, it would mean a violation of the plea agreement“.

The plea agreement states that whenever directed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “Headley must fully and truthfully participate in any debriefings for the purpose of gathering intelligence or national security information.”

The 49-year-old Pakistani-American had further agreed that, when directed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he would fully and truthfully testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the U.S. by way of deposition, or video-conferencing.

Mr. Theis said Headley’s guilty plea is a “manifestation, one example of his regret and his remorse. His conduct contributed to the harm of many people“.

Since his arrest in October, Headley has been cooperating with the government and has provided substantial assistance in the investigation of this case as well as “critical” information regarding intelligence on other matters.

He said all the information that Headley has given to U.S. authorities is and has been shared with India and Denmark.

Through the 13 days that Headley “talked”, he was informed of his right to remain silent, of his right to counsel, that anything he said could and would be used against him.

“But he chose not to exercise those rights and in fact to provide timely, thorough, trustworthy and complete information,” his lawyer Robert Seeder added.

Mr. Seeder said the information provided by Headley has “significantly helped the United States and has also aided other countries”.

“His cooperation has potentially saved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of people and his cooperation is going to continue throughout the remainder of this case,” Mr. Theis said, adding Headley was never involved in any kind of plot involving U.S. soil or U.S. citizens, “not knowingly“.

The lawyers refused to comment on the issue of Headley, son of a former Pakistani diplomat and a Philadelphia socialite, being a double agent.

“There is nothing in the plea agreement about anything about that (his being a double agent). I don’t know where that kind of language comes from“.

On whether Headley would get a life sentence, Mr. Theis said the range of the sentence could be either life or any other sentence less than that as authorised by law.

“It is obviously a complicated case. Sentencing is up to the Judge. This case has a long way to go,” he added.